Ginger is an important Asian food, prized for its many culinary, medicinal and health benefits. That fact, along with the love of anything pickled, naturally led to beni shoga or the red pickled ginger slivers served on many Japanese dishes from okonomiyaki to yaki soba. Not to be confused with gari, the pink pickled ginger served alongside sushi, beni shoga has a deep red color that comes from the red perilla (aka shiso) plant.
Although gari is simple to prepare at home, the preparation of beni shoga can be more involved because umezu, or the liquid run-off from pickling ume, is an important ingredient. Not many people pickle their own homemade ume so true umezu is hard to come by. However, you can use the brine from commercially bottled umeboshi. Umeboshi are salted, dried then marinated plums. They are sold in umezu that is red from the aka shiso leaves used to season the picking juice. So, if you want to make your own beni shoga without having to extract your own umezu, just pick up umeboshi bottled in its red brine. You can buy fresh aka shiso at your local Asian market. Look for packets of shiso plant seeds, too. Shiso grows like a weed and youíll be happy to have shiso to make your own furikake (condiment to sprinkle on rice) or to roll around meats and seafood. In fact, itís a good idea to grow it in a garden container to manage its growth.
Just as in the preparation of gari, you must use only the freshest young ginger root to make beni shoga. Wash and peel the fresh ginger, being sure to cut off and discard any hard, dried areas. Then, cut the ginger into small, uniform matchsticks.
1 lb. fresh young ginger root
2 teaspoons sea salt
ĺ cup umeboshi (pickled plum) brine/juice from bottle
5-7 fresh aka shiso leaves
Wash and peel ginger. Cut into small, uniform matchsticks by slicing into rounds first, then stacking the rounds. Place into a strainer and sprinkle with sea salt. Let this sit and drain for about 30 minutes. Squeeze out liquid and pat dry with a paper towel.
Stack the shiso leaves on top of each other, roll into a cigar-like cylinder and slice thinly Place the ginger slivers into a clean, glass jar, layering with the sliced shiso leaves. Pour in the ume brine. Cover with a lid and store in the refrigerator. Let the ginger pickle for about a few weeks.
Enjoy beni shoga on top of okonomiyaki, takoyaki, yaki soba, gyudon, curry rice or anything else that might benefit from a bit of salty-tart, gingery goodness.